After what seems like an eternity of waiting, Yakuza Kiwami finally makes its way to the West.
It may seem like only a six months ago I was writing up a review for SEGA’s Yakuza 0. That is because, IT WAS only six months ago that Yakuza 0 came out on PlayStation 4.
It might seem a little odd for SEGA to be releasing two Yakuza games in under 6 months. But if you’ve been this series loosely, you’ll know that this series has never had a strong marketing push within the Western markets. Take for instance Yakuza 0 – while this game is definitely a strong contender for my game of the year, and this was a title that came out 2 years ago in Japan. For someone who is not eager on learning Japanese any time soon, the sudden emergence of Yakuza games has been a welcoming push.
Released early last year on the PlayStation 4, Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original 2005 PlayStation 2 title. Released last year in Japan, Kiwami is a complete revival of the classic PS2 title, with improved load times, new side quests, new graphics engine and HD textures. But is overhual of pretty visuals enough to hold this title up? Let’s find out!
In Yakuza Kiwami, players follow in the footsteps our of lead protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu.
After involving himself with the murder of his house patriarch (i.e. his mafia boss), Kiryu finds himself behind bars for 10 years. Returning back to the fictional city of Kamurocho, players discover that the Yakuza families are now on a full-scale civil war. With 10 billion yen missing from their vaults, and more murders, it’s up to players to once again solve the mystery, and restore peace back to the organisations.
From here on out, this is as much of the plot that I’ll give away. Seeing as this is a heavily story driven game, the last thing I want to do is irritate readers and reveal secrets. In terms of narrative and key plot points, what I’ve described is no more but a vague description of the first two hours of the game.
What I will say though is if you’re playing this game right after Yakuza 0, then you’ll feel right at home with this game. In Yakuza Kiwami, there are a lot of returning characters in both the main story and sub missions. As such, this means that there are heaps of references that help tie the two games together. Obviously, this probably means players who either skimmed over these missions or didn’t play Yakuza 0 may feel lost during these conversions. Which is why I suggest to those who wish to get into this series to go out, and play Yakuza 0 before jumping into Kiwami.
From organised crime to conspiracies, it wouldn’t be a Yakuza game without its classic street brawls
Combat follows the same brutal format as Yakuza 0. In Kiwami, players can switch between four move-sets, which will change up the combat stances depending on the type of foe you’ll be fighting against. Like Yakuza 0, each fighting stance has its own share of perks and weaknesses, which will require players to know before opting out to either of them. In terms of performance, the fighting mechanics feel fast, and the controls are great for those who are familiar with fighting games.
In addition to fighting off the infinite onslaught of street thugs and local drunkards, Kiwami also offers a unique side mission entitled, Majima Everywhere.
Remember Goro Majima? The crazy one-eyed dude you played as in Yakuza 0?
Well, he’s back, and he’s become a little….. obsessed with fighting Kiryu.
Shortly after arriving back to Kamurocho, players discover that the ten years without street fights has made Kiryu a little soft. As such, it’s up to Goro Majima to train Kiryu back to his former glory, by encountering him on the streets and forcing him to a street brawl.
As well as appearing in the main story, Majima will attempt to fight against the player at any given time in the game. Whether this is through random encounters on the street, joining in on a brawl that is under way, or posing as a police officer to get your attention, these encounters offer a hilarious side narrative, which rewards players with experience points and new move sets. While I was a little disheartened at the fact that Majima wasn’t a playable character in Kiwami, these side missions make up for it.
If you’re like myself and are hoping to jump on the Yakuza bandwagon, I highly recommend trying out Yakuza 0 before Kiwami. While this remake does an excellent job in bringing life back to a beloved classic, you can tell that this title was meant to be played right after Yakuza 0. Whether this does a disservice to people hoping to start with Kiwami before 0, only time can tell. What I can say is if you love the series, you’ll definitely love this game.